FROM FOOD SAFETY MAKES SENSE: Peanuts Versus Tree Nuts


Most of us know that peanuts cause allergic reactions. However, peanuts are not nuts but are classified as legumes along with lentils. One reason we do see a high incidence of peanut allergies is due to peanuts used in many foods and also the fact that peanuts are listed under other names. Tree nuts include nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds and pecans. Cashews are in the cashew botanical family along with mango and pistachio. Research has shown a relationship between a cashew allergy and severe reaction to poison ivy. Another interesting fact is that almonds are in the plum family along with apricot, cherry and nectarine. Almonds are still considered a tree nut by most allergists. It’s possible to be allergic to almond, yet tolerate peaches or other foods in this category. If you are looking for sources of peanut protein, remember that peanut oil, butter, flour, sauce and goober nuts or mandelonas are all in the category. Peanut protein can also found in bird feed, craft materials, cosmetics, mushroom growing medium, stuffing in toys, sunscreens and vitamins and medications. Tree nuts are easier to identify and include everything from almonds, mixed nuts, pine nuts, pistachios and pralines. Some different examples of foods or ingredients which may contain tree nut protein include almond paste, muesli, marzipan, specialty coffees and baking mixes. This information should be helpful when looking for sources of either tree nuts or peanuts. Remember, virtually any processed food has the potential to contain nut/peanut products. Always read the labels. If you are not sure and you have a peanut or tree nut allergy, don’t consume the food. It is always better to be safe and prevent an allergic reaction than take the risk by eating a suspect product.


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ENVIRO-FOOD CONSULTING is a foodservice consulting business run by Sally de la Rue Browne, Certified Public Health Inspector and Food Safety Specialist.

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